Thursday, December 11, 2014

Colour Palette, Part 2: White vs. Cream

The couch photographed on reveal day. The walls are clearly a creamy white while the couch cover and lamp base look solidly white. 


I may have goofed.

This week I purchased Maria Killam's brand new e-book, White is Complicated.

In it, Maria distinguishes between two trends or "families" of colours: the Tuscan Browns; browns/beiges/golds/creams/earthy muted colours (on their way out) and the Parisian Greys: blacks/whites/greys/fresh, clear colours, which is all around us. There is also a third category which she doesn't discuss in the book but does on her blog. It has to do more with colour (and not white per se) and that is Fresh (off-white, cream, and clean, pale colours.)

For the Tuscan palette, creamy whites are best. For the Parisian Grey palette,  any white from blue-white to true white to an off-white will go well with the other colours.

Unfortunately, whether you can go with colours from the Tuscan Brown trend or the Parisian Grey trend isn't just a matter of preference: not if you want your home to be harmonious. In order to obtain harmony, whites, like the complex neutrals you will pick to cover your walls must go with the undertones of the hard finishes in your home.

I'm lucky. My home does not have a lot of "hard" finishes. I have wood floors, upstairs and down.  Downstairs, the oak floors have an orange cast. Upstairs, the wood has a reddish cast. The small amount of wood trim we have is also orange, though I call it cognac, since that makes it sound more current! This puts my house closer to the Tuscan brown family than the Parisian Grey.

My kitchen floor, on the other hand, with its black and white tile (and which I love) is firmly in the Parisian grey family of colour. The counter-top (with built-in backsplash), an ancient gold-flecked laminate, can go either way. But really, truly? The best white for my kitchen has always been BM Cloud White which is at the creamy end of off-white.

But wait. Black and white floors? Genuine oak floors and trim? Douglas Fir woodwork? Isn't that closer to classic than Tuscan brown? After all, these finishes actually pre-date the Tuscan brown trend by a few decades.

Wood floors are like Blue Jeans. They go with everything. Black and white floors certainly do, too. So, really, this house can go any which way I want. And I want Parisian Gray. Or, at least, I thought I did.

Even if my house's finishes did nudge me towards the Tuscan brown family, Maria allows for an exception. If my hard finishes (in the earthy and warm palette) can be described as light to medium toned rather than dark, then I can move towards the creamy off-whites (like Cloud White). Off whites belong in the Parisian Grey family of colour.

That sounds right to me. I will never have true white or blue-white in this home. (Well, OK, never say never) but when it is all said and done, true white and blue-white feel cold and harsh to me. So, I am happy with a colour scheme based upon off-white and creams. (But I don't have to go the earthy, muted colour scheme of Tuscan brown (thank goodness). I can go Fresh. (More on that later.))


Here is where I may have goofed.

1) My north facing living room may not have enough light to maintain the ethereal quality of white. More importantly--and alarmingly-- the shadows of a darkish room may make the white look dingy and dirty: not clean and fresh. In these rooms, a pale neutral, or a little colour, or even greige would be better than a white.

Please forgive the mess that passes for Christmas decorations. It's a process.

I don't know. I think the shadows look fine. Of course, it is winter and the room is always brightest in winter from the reflection of the light off of the snow outside. (I know it looks awful. We're in the process of hauling out the Christmas decor and none of it looks right anymore.)

But, I think this same white might be the wrong choice for the adjacent dining room. Any white would likely be the wrong choice for the dining room. There's already an awful lot of white in it. Any more and the place will be washed out and drab. One window makes a cave: not a place where whites can come alive.

why, yes, those are new curtains. The room is currently painted French Vanilla CC 248 (or Papaya to all you Americans) by Benjamin Moore

see? Lots of white already.

2) Let's say white is the right choice for the living room: should it have been a white as creamy as Glass of Milk? Yes, I think so. Anything less yellow would have been too stark, I think. Is this the absolute best colour for this room? Who knows? I'm not painting the living room again for along time.

 It'll do.


thefarmersdaughter said...

I really like the living room. It looks fantastic- and the update to your kitchen is really pretty!

Alana in Canada said...

Thanks, Lorijo. I finally feel like I am on the right track. I just want to finish it all before I change my mind again!

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